Campaign for Family-Friendly Trains launches national scorecard

The Campaign for Family-Friendly Trains has reached out to all Train Operating Companies asking them to self-evaluate against a series of family-friendly metrics such as the availability of space for unfolded prams on trains and whether assisted boarding has been extended to those travelling with young children.

Nick Flynn from the Campaign commented: ‘Train travel has many advantages over alternatives such as driving for families. On a train it is possible to bottle feed or breastfeed a baby, have a meal, visit the toilet or change a nappy without having to pause a journey. Since parents don’t have to concentrate on driving, families can enjoy the time together and make the journey part of the adventure. In addition, an environmentally conscious generation of parents knows that train travel is the better choice for the environment. However, parents are often left feeling frustrated by train travel since they are expected to fold prams, toilet facilities can be inadequate, and boarding can be stressful with parents relying on the kindness of strangers.’

‘Based on our experience and the views of parents and carers, the clear priority is dedicated space for unfolded prams. Our first question to all Train Operating Companies is therefore whether they have allocated space for unfolded prams on their trains.’

‘We’ve been impressed at how Train Operating Companies have engaged with our campaign so far, and were delighted to see Great Western Railways introduce trial measures such as priority boarding for families at Paddington station and a family-friendly waiting room at Reading station. We hope the scorecard (which we’ll publish on our website) will encourage all Train Operating Companies to continue to think about the needs of parents and children as well as provide vital information for travelling families. As leisure and discretionary travel becomes more important for the railways, creating family-friendly trains is a great way to attract more passengers and induce demand.’

Notes for editors:

The Campaign for Family-Friendly Trains was set up by frustrated parents who had had disappointing experiences travelling on Britain’s railway with young children. They have met with Train Operating Companies, the Rail Delivery Group as well as Rolling Stock Operating Companies and Train Manufacturers. The campaign’s main requests are:

  1. dedicated space for unfolded prams on trains
  2. extension of the seat reservation system to include the space for unfolded prams
  3. clean, reliable and spacious toilets with toddler toilet seats
  4. an extension of passenger assist to families travelling with young children
  5. level access between the train, platform and station entrance.

The scorecard will be published on the campaign’s website:

For media please contact:

London for Dummies

Travel and lifestyle journalist and author Helen Ochyra writes about travelling in London with children.

Photo by Tom Parsons on Unsplash

I’ve lived in London my entire adult life and thought I knew the tube network extremely well. Certainly well enough to be very comfortable on every journey. That is, until I had children.

Travelling with a pushchair makes me feel like a novice all over again. On a recent journey to Covent Garden to take my toddler to the theatre I completely forgot that there’s a small flight of stairs between the platform and the lifts, and when I decided to take her to the zoo to meet a friend I was wracking my brains to try and remember whether Camden Town has lifts (good) or escalators (awkward, if not terrifying).

I tried to find this information online, of course. But I couldn’t. Completely step free stations are marked clearly on the maps, but I couldn’t easily find information to tell me whether there was a lift or not at one specific station.

When I arrived at Camden Town I got off the train just behind another parent. She had a double buggy, which was even harder for her to manoeuvre around the barriers at the platform and through the tunnel to reach the bottom of the escalator. When we arrived there we both stopped, I imagine with the same stricken look on our faces. Was there a lift? And if so, where? She asked me if I knew – which of course I didn’t – and we went to the information point together to press the button to speak to staff. We were told there is no lift but no assistance was offered. So we both gamely clambered onto the escalators holding buggies with white knuckles.

I thought about how I would have managed this when I was pregnant. I wondered how a parent with multiple children, or accessibility requirements of their own, or a more unwieldy buggy, would cope. I wondered if there were going to be any steps to deal with at the exit, and I wondered why this was all so difficult.

I understand that the tube network is old, that it wasn’t designed for our modern lives. But I cannot understand why information – specific, clear, easy to access information – is so hard to get hold of.

We were able to go to the zoo that day, but when we returned to the station – my daughter asleep in the pushchair – I discovered a short flight of steps at the entrance. Fortunately, somebody offered to help me (in my experience, they pretty much always do) but I thought about what would have happened if I’d had to wake my daughter and carry her and the pushchair up those stairs. I thought about my fellow passenger with the double buggy and how for her that would maybe not even be possible. And I thought about not doing this again in a hurry.

November campaign update

The last few months have seen a lot of activity for our ever-growing campaign team. In September we met with Network Rail, who told us all about their Whole Industry Strategic Review (WISR) which follows on from the government’s white paper ‘The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail’, in which the idea of Great British Rail was launched. The WISR is intended to give the Department for Transport a 30 year network-wide rail strategy.

It was a great opportunity to feed in recommendations for family-friendly travel covering not just the issues parents face on trains such as lack of pram space and poor baby changing facilities, but also struggles boarding trains, reaching platforms, getting in and out of the station, even getting to and from the station. While we may not see immediate impact from our input, given the long-term nature of the project, it was a really valuable meeting – our thanks to Helen and Daisy from Network Rail for their time.

We also learned in that meeting that passenger assistance should apply to anyone who needs help, not just people with disabilities. So, if you need help getting on or off a train with a pram or buggy, you should be allowed to request use of a ramp, either through an app like Transreport or via the help point at a station.

In September we met with Avanti again and Transport for Wales for the first time. Both were receptive to our ideas and Transport for Wales have invited us to check out their mock-ups for new rolling stock and give feedback early next year.

We’ve also made friends with the wonderful Gareth Dennis who is, among many other things, co-founder of the Campaign for Level Boarding, a campaign that resonates with our own given the problems lack of step-free access to trains and platforms poses for people travelling with prams. Thanks to Gareth for his insights and advice into the rail industry. If you’re on Twitter, please do follow and support @LevelBoarding.

Thank you also to Cait Sim at Visible Platform for some really useful recommendations for groups we should speak to in the coming months, and how to develop our campaign further. Visible Platform is closing the data gap around sexual harassment on public transport. If you have been harassed at any point you can report it anonymously through their website.

More recently we’ve started meeting with ROSCOs (rolling stock companies – the people who actually own the trains) and have upcoming meetings with a few manufacturers too. Watch this space!

Our team is growing which means we can get more done, but we have lots of ideas and would still welcome more help. If you are able to help our campaign in any way, please get in touch!

Campaign meets with Rail Delivery Group CEO

We were delighted to meet with Jacqueline Starr, CEO of the Rail Delivery Group, earlier this month to share our experiences of travelling by train with young children, and examples of family friendly trains from across Europe. We plan to meet again in the near future and we look forward to hearing about the progress that is being made in the UK to help catch up.

Shortly after our meeting the rail industry launched a major campaign to get leisure customers back to rail. The campaign features two excited young children on board a train, as well as a family with a baby who are visiting grandparents.

It is clear from these images that the rail industry sees attracting families as an important part of a post-pandemic recovery. We will be making the case that family friendly measures such as space for pushchairs on board trains will be required to achieve this. If you want to help us, please get in touch!

Meetings with TOCs, Key Train Requirements and East West Rail

Meetings with train operating companies

We were pleased that Great Western Railway agreed to meet with us in February. GWR and their new IET trains have caused many complaints amongst new parents as no space for pushchairs is provided on board. Instead parents are left sitting in vestibule areas or babies and toddlers sleeping in the bicycle storage cupboards. We discussed our (often poor) experiences of travelling on GWR services with children, and our hopes for more space for pushchairs.

We were delighted that they had come prepared with some of their own suggestions on how to make train travel better for families with young children. We hope to see some of them become a reality in the near future.

One thing that GWR have already changed is their website. Previously children had been considered together with “small animals” but now they have their own dedicated page. A small victory, but we’re hopeful it indicates a change in mindset and perhaps the start of something bigger.

The old version of GWR’s website lumped children together with small animals, but they have very different needs and expectations!
The new page on GWR’s website for travelling with children

We followed up the meeting with GWR with a series of meetings with other train operating companies including Avanti, LNER and East Midlands Railway. We are pleased that these companies are engaging with us. It’s fair to say they all understand there is a problem, although not all of them thought that the train operating companies had the power to make the changes we would like to see.

Consultation responses

With that in mind, as well as meeting with train operating companies, we have also responded to various consultations.

In February we wrote to the Rail Delivery Group asking for changes to the Key Train Requirements document which specifies what should be included on new trains. We proposed a change to a current clause describing “buggy storage” to make it suitable for unfolded buggies and an essential (rather than desirable) criteria. We also argued that the seat reservation system should be extended to storage for pushchairs. The consultation responses are currently being reviewed and we hope to be invited to an upcoming meeting of the drafting group to argue our case.

In May we responded to the East West rail consultation to make sure that the railway meets the needs of young children, mainly by ensuring the trains that will use the new line include space for pushchairs.

A new website

Finally, we have recently launched our website: We hope to add more material in the coming months.

Would you like to get involved in this (or anything else)? If so, please get in touch!